Cambria’s Independence Day celebration is such a classic Americana event, it’s like being in a daylong Norman Rockwell painting. The 12-hour funfest is filled with flags, games for kids and restaurant servers, a pie-eat-
ing contest, hot dogs, burgers, music and dancing, raffles, strawberry smoothies and fireworks at the beach at dusk.
All that’s happening, as usual, but it was a close call, because the sponsoring American Legion Post No. 432 was among North Coast investors hit hard in the February 2008 collapse of Estate Financial Inc.
Karen Guth and her son Joshua Yaguda, principals in the now-bankrupt lending company that was based in Paso Robles, are ser ving respective sentences of 12 and eight years in state prison for their roles in defrauding investors.
According to Greg Sanders, 2011-2012 commander, the Legion post lost its roughly $70,000 cash reserves, dividends from which had, for years, helped pay for the annual Independence Day festivities and the expensive professional fireworks display at the end.
The 2012 festivities are expected to have an up-front cost of about $23,000, including food. The fireworks will cost $10,600 this year, Sanders wrote in an email.
“That really leaves the post scrambling,” Sanders continued, and relying more than ever on donations made by area residents, businesses and visitors.
The post “does not want to compromise on the quality of the fireworks show. Putting on the Fourth of July event is one of the core missions of the post,” Sanders said. “The community has come to expect this of the post, and the post wants to continue to deliver.”
Post members fret that because the Fourth falls on a Wednesday this year, attendance — and fund-raising potential — could be down.
However, Mary Ann Carson of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce said Monday, June 25, “it sound like the hotels are getting booked up” for the holiday period. “I was pleasantly surprised. We’re looking forward to a good July 4.”
Things are looking up from the post perspective, too, Sanders said. The tourism boards in Cambria and San Simeon gave onetime grants ($9,000 and $1,600 respectively) to cover a portion of the event’s overhead. “A motel owner who understands the financial issues and really loves the event” donated $1,000, Sanders added.
Others still can help. Donation cans are out in various stores. Sales of food, drinks and raffle tickets at the event help pay the bills.
And donations are always welcome at P.O. Box 697, Cambria CA 93428, or at the post’s clubhouse at the back of the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St. For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.